Hapless victims of borderless cyber terror

In the light of the latest cyberattack on the e-services of the prestigious
AIIMS-Delhi that hacked nearly three crore data storage of patients,
including VVIPs like the former Prime Ministers and Presidents, the
possible threat of ransomware is resurfacing at an unimaginable scale


Globalisation accompanied by multiple waves of advanced information and communication technologies has made nation states and
their citizens more prone to attacks by unknown enemies.
The cyber enemies are fast creating a world devoid of trust, creating a brand new vocabulary of conflict and chaos. James
Adams, one of the founders of a cyber security firm called iDefense, had in 2001 warned that cyberspace is fast going to be a “new
A decade ago, then US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta declared the dangers of a “Cyber Pearl Harbour”. Further then US
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano cautioned for a “Cyber 9/11”. In 2015, James Clapper, the then Director of
Intelligence, stated that the US must get ready for a “Cyber Armageddon”.
Since the 9/11 terror attack on the US, the most powerful nation has been exposed to external threats. No one, even the US
intelligence and other top security agencies would have thought of a terror assault on the US.
But it happened that too at an unparallel magnitude, and terrorism received a new nomenclature called “global terrorism” and the
fight against this scourge came to be known as “Global War on Terrorism”. The massive global terror network starting from the
dreaded al-Qaeda to the Islamic State has in fact redefined the contours of global terrorism.
Precisely, this phenomenon has grown like an industry accompanied by a large institutional mechanism all around the world.
While these monstrous radicals are taking on humanity irrespective of region, religion and race, the devil of cyber terror has
emboldened them. And frankly, the nation states have once again encountered an unidentified, borderless and all-encompassing
catastrophic regime of terror.
In the light of the latest cyberattack on the e-services at the prestigious All Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, in the
last week of November, the possible threat of ransomware is surfacing again. With this horrendous strike, nearly three crore data
storage of patients, including the VVIPs like the former Prime Ministers, Presidents, etc, are either lost, damaged or seriously
With immediate steps taken by the Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations of the Delhi Police, there is every chance that the
perpetrators will be identified soon. At the moment, we do not have sufficient legal and security measures to prevent such malware
attacks in India. Since the establishment of the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) in 2004, a national nodal
agency, the collection, and analysis of data, and preventive measures to avert cyber security threats have become stronger than
The National Cyber Security Coordinator under the National Security Council Secretariat coordinates with multiple institutions at
national level on various cyber-security matters. Besides, the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre
established in 2014 under the 70A of the Information Act 2000 (amended in 2008) makes necessary arrangements to
protect all institutions of national critical importance.
Again, the Cyber Swachhta Kendra (Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre) under the Ministry of Electronics and Information
Technology (MEITY) is providing us adequate preventive mechanisms to stop such malicious viruses into our cyberspace. In fact it is part
of Digital India Initiative of the Government of India that aims to create a secure cyber space by detecting botnet infections across the
country. This centre also helps to notify, clean and secure systems for all end users to protect them from possible malware attacks.
But it is pertinent to know whether such mechanisms are enough to protect our national and regional critical infrastructures against
hundreds of malwares released by various nefarious actors? If not what more can our Government do? At the moment, the national
cyber security agencies and all other civil-military organisations are certainly not sufficient to counter possible cyberattacks. It must be
noted here that no nation, even the mighty US, is completely protected against such attacks. While global organisations like the Interpol
and other top security and intelligence agencies can be the hope for countries like India, the US, China, Russia, the UK, the EU, etc, an
immediate global-level cooperation and safe data sharing to fight cyber crime is the only way to minimise threats emerging from the
Today, national governments are facing single most serious security threats not from air force, navy, or infantry divisions but from
cyberspace. A simple computer or any digital device linked with the Internet is open to such attacks.
Indeed, nation states are facing an existential threat not only from their real and perceived enemies but also from growing
corporate conglomerates around the world. At this juncture, governments at all the four levels — global, national, regional and local
— are grappling to safeguard their territorial boundaries from cyber enemies.
The current Ukraine war is a testing ground for cyber warfare. This conflict has provided extensive insights into the current domain
of the digital war zone. Leaders like Putin are once again shaking people's confidence in national and international institutions,
making them rather irrelevant for some time.
It's time to stop him and save democracy and basic human rights of the people on both sides of the border of Russia. Putin's
designs have no place in a civilised world like ours. His nasty cyber tactics have already brought immense loss to hapless Ukraine.
The moot question is whether we will be able to overcome the chaos in the near future? Experts say there is a very remote possibility
to completely destroy the cyber enemies. No nation is safe today, not even those who launch cyberattacks. It is time to realise the fact
that we are living in an open world, wherein there is no place to hide from enemies. All the nations are interdependent, and no one can
claim to be fully protected from enemies, both physical and virtual.
It is high time we realised that cyberspace is not an isolated realm. It binds all of us together. We are creating our enemies. The
irony is that these viruses are man-made. But we are unable to keep them under control. But we are still struggling to grasp the
underlying reality.
For an emerging global power like India, we do not need to wait for another AIIMS like cyber attack chaos. Delhi must respond to
the crisis effectively. Its security and intelligence agencies must stop any future attacks over Parliament, the Reserve Bank of India,
All India Radio, Prime Minister's Office and all other critical infrastructures.
The magnitude and cyber threat is increasing at an unimaginable rate. But strategies to counter it are purely inadequate at the
moment. Today biggest challenge is to remain isolated. It is beyond our control. Many security experts predict that cyber threats
might push many countries into physical conflicts. Cyber enemies are creating distrust, pitting one against another and making us
suspicious of each other.

(The writer is the Head of the Department of Arts
and Humanities at Geeta
University, Panipat)

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